Things I’m Leaving in 2019

2019. What a year it was. These past 12 months felt like 8, maybe. They didn’t lie when they said time starts to fly by at rapid speed once you reach adulthood. So what has this year been like? At the very onset of 2019, I was grieving the loss of a very dear friendship. This was unfortunately a case of unrequited feelings; the type of predicament where you feel friendship just doesn’t cut it anymore. Be that as it may, this was a person I had a genuine friendship with, so losing that relationship was a huge, rough pill to swallow. However, the positive side of this painful situation was that it set me on a path to truly do what is best for me, in every way. I started to reflect on my mindset: was I truly as well-adjusted as I believed? The short answer was absolutely not. I was constantly second-guessing myself, minimizing my pains as well as my accomplishments, denying my true feelings, and living in a shoulda, coulda, woulda mindset. Cutting off my friendship with the person I mentioned above was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it was a wake up call and through it all, I was immensely proud of myself. My emotional well-being and strong sense of self is more important to me than anything, so I hope my list of behaviors that no longer serve me will provide some help to you as well.

Self-Doubt

Self-doubt is a killer. I used to think all of the “believe in yourself!” talk was just a bunch of cliche, self-help jargon, but it is so much more than that. Upon hours of self-reflection (and therapy), I realized how much I second guess myself, and that it truly comes from a place of fear. When I think back to my teen years and younger, I was fearless. If I wanted to do something, I did it. The “what if” thoughts did not enter my head. It was just ready, set, go. Of course back then, I had the safety net of my parents and not a lot of life experience to jade me, but I was filled with the confidence that things would work out because that was the only option I would accept. Fast forward 5-10 years later and the inner mean girl that moved into my head came with suitcases full of negative talk, fear, and doubt. Just plopped down and threw her stuff all over. The consequences? The suffering of my personal growth, mental clarity and overall well-being. While I don’t live with regret, I had to recognize the aftermath of not trusting my instincts due to self-doubt. There have been high paying jobs I decided to not submit my resume for because I felt unqualified, college projects I refrained from stepping up to because I didn’t think I could properly lead, the list goes on. Well, no more of that! I realized that I have been equipped with everything I need to become the woman I desire. Believe it or not, I am the eternal optimist. Perhaps it’s the Sagittarius in me, who knows? However, I have had several instances where I just simply felt as if I was not good enough. Not successful enough. Not rich enough. Not pretty enough. And for who? There wasn’t anyone in particular that I was comparing myself to, that’s not my style. I wasn’t living up to my own standards, but these were unfair standards I had placed on myself, and it was hindering my personal growth. No more in 2020.

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Lack!

Money, money, money! Now, I’ve never been one who is afraid of spending money or buying myself nice things, but thanks to this lovely book, I learned that it is time I change my relationship with cash. We hear all the time how money is the root of all evil, most of us feel as if we never have enough, and we look down on folks who are rolling in the dough as if they are greedy, selfish monsters who take more than they give. Our general attitudes towards money are completely contradictory. We look forward to payday, flip out when we find a dollar on the ground and wish we had more of it, yet constantly complain about how we’re lacking and resent those in a better financial position. See the paradox? How can you manifest and attract more money if you’re confusing the universe on what you want? If we want more money yet people who have it are bad, God or who/whatever you believe in will not know what to do with you. Like anything else, money is energy and if you expel loads of negative vibes when it comes to your financial circumstances, how do you expect to attract better? Until value was placed upon it, money was nothing but a flimsy piece of paper with an old man’s face on it.

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The book in the link above explains it much better than I can, but the key is to live as if you already have everything you need. As I mentioned earlier, I have no problem buying things for myself, but I would still make moves in fear. Buyer’s remorse was a feeling I had become all too familiar with. No one is saying go spend your rent money on Beyonce tickets, but start seeing money as a tool to propel you, not a hindrance that doesn’t allow you to live the life you want. The author mentions how she was in the market for a new car and everything within her wanted the Audi over the Honda. Much higher payment of course, but by allowing herself to drive what she truly deserved, she was forced to level up in her career so that she could afford the payments. This motivation allowed her to become more successful and start making the money she knew she was worth, and then some. I will be letting go of any sense of lack I held on to and start attracting what I am meant to have.

Fear

Fear is perhaps the root of everything I have mentioned above. Fear can cause people to do irrational things. Fear of rejection was the reason I held in my true feelings for my friend for so long. Fear of loneliness, fear of being broke, fear of failure. Well I have finally realized that I might as well go for what I want, because if I am rejected, or fail at something, I’m not gonna die (unless I finally decide to face my fear of skydiving and the jump goes wrong). When you operate from a place of fear, you vibrate at a low frequency. The universe knows you don’t trust it to have your back, so you rob yourself of opportunities. Fear shows up in many different ways. I can’t lie, the fear of being hurt and disappointed has made me emotionally unavailable. I’ve had several bad experiences in the dating game, and have put a wall up in an effort to protect my poor lil heart. If they don’t get too close, they can’t hurt me, right? Sure, but I’m really hurting myself by robbing the right person of the opportunity to get to know me. I may have missed out on quite a few amazing men, but because of this barrier I will never know. The bright side of this is my level of awareness. Now that I know what my problem is and where it stems from, I am on the path to fixing it. I am doing my inner work by affirming myself, setting my intentions and being more open. Positive affirmations retrain your brain by forming new neural pathways that can wipe out all those old sentiments you carry around. Hop on Pinterest and search “positive affirmations” and you will be on the right track. Intention setting is also very helpful because you alert the universe to what you want, in a positive way. Click here to learn how to set your own intentions. Roll into 2020 taking care of you and you will begin to manifest the life you want. That’s what I plan to do, anyway.

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Standards: How Many of Us Have Them?

My mom and I talk a lot about love and relationships. She and my dad were married for 26 years, literally half of her life. At 28, I can’t imagine what it must be like to be with someone for quite frankly my entire existence. I have changed so much over the years, so it is easy for me to understand how people can grow apart. That is essentially what happened with my parents. No one is the same at 25 as they are at 50. Even if your personal growth is minimal, the trials and tribulations of life will leave their mark on you, nonetheless, forcing growth. I’ve yet to settle down, and despite the external pressure women feel to walk down the aisle and start procreating, I am glad life did not put me on the immediate path of matrimony. At this big age, I’ve had time to figure myself out, little by little. I am confident in who I am; I am not who someone else has decided I should be. Being comfortable in my own skin has granted me the clarity to discern who is for me and who isn’t. While my mom and I were on the topic, I actually opened my Notes app and showed her a sizable list of what I am looking for. A few of the qualities I included were family oriented, in good mental/physical health, has integrity, and does not have anger/jealousy issues. I can’t lie, my list boasts a total of 42 different traits/qualities, but to me, they are realistic. I added a few superficial things, like someone I find attractive, good in bed, etc., but my main focus was on personality traits and other qualities that I need to feel safe and secure. Of course I would be naive to expect one man to meet every single item on my list, but I feel like if I am as specific as possible, the universe will deliver. All that being said, I want other women to take a mental inventory of what they want in a partner. Standards are more than just a few things on a list. They are necessary to determine what type of life you are willing to be comfortable living when you commit to someone.

Learn From The Past

Human beings are creatures of habit. If it’s familiar, it feels safe. This is why we tend to pick the same types over and over. Deciding you are no longer dating light skinned men will not save you from infidelity, immaturity, and inconsistency. How do you know you’re not signing back up for the same old show again? You have to take your time and dive deeper than outward appearance. If you state that you are no longer dating men who do not bring in a consistent income, why would you spend your time getting to know a struggling SoundCloud rapper who can’t hold down a day job? Sure, TNT LilYoungboy may be your type physically, but think back to your mental inventory of what you want in a partner. If he isn’t in line with your most important needs, you shouldn’t be entertaining him. This gets especially hard when your hormones start raging and you start imagining what your future kids will look like. Just like with managing money and calories, you have to be disciplined enough to not just go after what makes you feel good, but with what adds value. I try not to judge myself too harshly when I was spending my time with men who oozed sex appeal, but lacked character. I was constantly preaching about what I would and would not stand for, until Mr. Fine came stepping through.

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All of that strong woman talk was forgotten about and I soon ended up right back where I started. When you make your list, really put some thought into what is most important to YOU. Depending on where you are in your self-development journey, this may or not may be a difficult exercise. If you find that you’ve hit a block, think back to your most recent adult relationships. What worked well and what didn’t? Did you hate how he would blow off date nights so that he could pretend to be Kobe Bryant at L.A. Fitness with his friends? Perhaps “a man who makes me a priority” is a good place to start. Was his social life non-existent and he was content being underfoot all the time? Add “a man with his own circle of friends and hobbies” to your list. Past relationships give us the ability to determine what we are looking for simply through the process of elimination. Sure, you may not know what you want, but by deciding what you don’t want, you’re off to a great start.

Slow Your Roll

So you’ve made your list and left no room for inconsistent, game playing, and ugly (just kidding on the ugly, haha) men to creep into your life. Good for you! You’ve taken control and set your intentions for your love life. When I finally decided I was done with situationships and other messy, half-ass relationships, I felt powerful. It was so easy to blame the men I was dealing with for hurting my feelings and stringing me along, when in reality I was the one who allowed it. Luckily, I am not one of those people who never learn. Did I turn ruthless over night? Of course not. It took a level of awareness that I gained over several months. Oftentimes when we are in the middle of something, we fail to see it as it really is. Family members and friends will be the first to tell you that you’re wasting your time, but we often can’t see the forest for the trees. This is what makes sticking to your standards so difficult. We meet people who check off all the boxes on a surface level and the blinders come on. These shallow interactions distract you from the fact that this person may be abusive, controlling, self-absorbed, etc. By the time the lust wears off and you remove the blinders, you get down in the dumps because it hit you that you’ve wasted a significant amount of time on someone who had no business in your life. Here’s the good news: this is a problem that you can conquer easily with patience. It is impossible to know if your new love interest is up to your specifications if you rush every encounter. Sure, physical chemistry can be hard to deny, but be an adult and have some discipline. Get out of the house and take full advantage of the chance to see how he acts outside his comfort zone. Stop texting and have meaningful conversations over the phone and face to face. Do you want someone who is family-oriented? Pay close attention to how he speaks of his family and the efforts he makes to be a present, reliable family member. You will not know if someone is made for you after a couple of dates and a few cupcaking sessions on the phone, but you can take comfort in the fact that you’re putting in the necessary effort to make that determination.

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Ultimately, it boils down to compatibility. Once you’ve uncovered all the layers, you may very well still like this person, but if you’re incompatible, please do not force it. After all, it doesn’t take a lot to simply like a person. However, not everyone we like is suited for us. Not everyone we like is relationship material. Whether you want it to work because you two have chemistry but nothing else, or because you lack chemistry but he checks off 80% of your needs, realize that nothing forced will stand the test of time. When you are ready to get serious about who you invite into your life, seeking someone you can grow with is of the utmost importance. Stay true to yourself and what you require and the rest will fall in line.

 

Long Live Neighborhood Nip | A Legend Lost

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When the news broke of a shooting involving Nipsey Hussle, my mind did not allow me to think he was one of the victims. When I learned that he was indeed injured, I once again did not think of death. I figured I would go online later that evening and see he was recovering and all would be well in the end. As more tweets started rolling in saying he had passed, I shook my head and waited for a trusted source. After all, Twitter loves jumping to conclusions. Shortly after, I had mentions from a few of my Followers that NBC had broken the tragic news. He was dead at age 33. I was flabbergasted. “We’ve really lost another one?” was my first thought. People die everyday, we all know this, yet for some reason, the news of his death started to hang over me like a dark cloud. My spirit felt unsettled, and this confused me. I didn’t know this man. I was a casual fan, at best, so why was this bothering me so? It finally dawned on me that this tragedy is bigger than music. Yes, he was a musician, but he was so much more in addition: a father, a friend, a teacher, an entrepreneur and investor in his community. Nipsey Hussle used his platform to inspire and educate, yet he also walked the talk. People who are actually about that action seem few and far between these days. So many of us are content spewing our grandiose ideas of how we would change things in our environment or what others need to be doing to elicit change, yet Nipsey actually put his words into play. He was not content living in a community policed and owned by no one who actually inhabited the neighborhood, so what was his solution? Let’s buy these unwanted pieces of real estate and put our money back into OUR communities. Nipsey often spoke of how depreciating assets such as cars and jewelry are desirable but unimportant, and true value lies in investments in yourself and others, perseverance and a mindset of growth and abundance. A man of positivity was taken from us. A man who delivered a message that many Black youth in American could relate to was taken from us. Whether you believe the Dr. Sebi based conspiracies, want to blame “Black on Black” crime or gang violence, at the end of the day, we’ve lost another one. When will it stop?

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It is my belief that Black Americans are desperate for leadership. Yes, we have come a long way from segregation, but we still have a marathon to go when it comes to breaking down past and current barriers that prevent us from being on equal footing with White America. I am not sure if Nipsey Hussle ever deemed himself a leader or activist, but his message and community works were an important factor in our advancement. Black owned businesses are too few in this country, and through his Our Opportunity initiative, he endeavored to partner with other Black community leaders in different cities to create businesses that would be of service to the Black residents instead of forcing them out. This is when I begin to feel angry all over again. Our progress as a people moves so slowly because whenever someone steps up to the plate, senseless violence silences them. Here is a man who made it out, but who remained dedicated to uplifting those around him, a man who refused to forget about the little guy. Nipsey never made it to the meeting with the LAPD to discuss solutions to gang violence, and his other community based projects such as Destination Crenshaw are now hanging in the balance.

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Despite his past of gang affiliations and activity, it would be an injustice to his legacy to deny the impact Nipsey Hussle left on his community and Black America in general. We need our Black fathers, husbands, and brothers, and everyday we lose too many to violence or the penal system. How many Black men committed to promoting change in their communities die everyday that we hear nothing about? The media sweeps it under the rug because it does not further their narrative that Black men are dangerous and to be feared. A son and daughter are now fatherless because someone driven by hate decided to play God one Sunday afternoon. As a Black woman, I am weary. These types of deaths are starting to feel too familiar. From Malcolm X and Dr. King, to Tupac, to the tragic killings of people I have known personally, I am tired of adding to the list. What is the solution? We cannot eradicate hate out of people’s hearts, we can’t eradicate weapons, and the American prison system is the most pathetic form of “rehabilitation” in history. How do we protect our Black men from society, and how do we protect them from US? At times, we are our own worst enemy. We cannot use the excuse that Eric Holder (the alleged shooter) is a product of his environment when his victim was raised in the same community, yet chose to elevate beyond a lifestyle of violence and discord. Nipsey’s death hit home for so many of us, and I took it personally. It is our responsibility to live out his vision, no matter how big or small your platform. Be a forward thinker, invest in your community and uplift those around you. We can’t let his death be in vain.

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The Other Side of Self-Care

Being the best version of ourselves is a movement that has been gaining popularity over the past few years. Everywhere I look there are articles and advertisements for Yoga and Meditation, reducing your screen time, and Keto diets. I’m sure you can think of a few more examples. Therapy is also becoming normalized, and I am thrilled to see my generation is breaking down this taboo in the Black community. You are not crazy because you go and talk to an unbiased professional every few weeks. In fact, we could all benefit from it. Adulthood is busy and stressful, and we all would be happier if we’d take more time to do things we enjoy. I personally love sitting down on the couch in my Snuggie with a glass of wine and tuning in to one of my favorite shows or grabbing a book. I am trying to stay away from Retail Therapy as a form of relaxation, but this is a process, don’t judge me. I’ve also been wanting to get outside more to enjoy nature. Apparently enjoying the outdoors improves short-term memory, relieves stress and eliminates fatigue, among other things. The great outdoors may not be your jam, but no matter how you choose to indulge yourself, it is important to remember that self-care also involves tough love. I mean how can you possibly take care of yourself if you also are not protecting your peace of mind? Sure, bubble baths are lit, but you can’t neglect what’s happening on the inside of you and how you are allowing yourself to be treated by the people in your life. I didn’t realize that this was a form of self love until I started to look at my life objectively. I love my family dearly, and if I saw them accepting less than they deserve, whether it be from outsiders or of their own accord, I would encourage them to do better. So why not apply this mentality to myself? I have been thinking about this a lot lately, hence this post. I wanted to throw out a few self-care tactics that are not always as carefree as a massage or Paint & Sip, but necessary and beneficial to your life over the long-term.

Dead End Friendships

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Sometimes, “friends” just gotta go. Do they have to do something wrong or hurt you? Not necessarily, but they should add value to your life and not just be there hanging around. We humans tend to hold on to people and things just out of habit and comfort, not taking the time to consider whether or not these people deserve to be in our space. As we get older, I think it’s important to take the time to analyze our friendships. This is especially important to consider when you have friends you’ve known since your teens or college years. I am not the same person I was at 17, 20 or 24. Your friends may have evolved as well or remained the same, the latter being problematic. You are now more self-aware, mature and ambitious while your best friend from high school is still in the mindset you had at 21. Everyone is different and has their own journey to make in life, but you may find you just don’t relate anymore. You’re shaking the table and making moves while your bestie is still living a drama filled life with no direction. What do you even have to talk about at this point? I love laughing about Reality TV as much as the next person, but after the show is over, what’s the next topic? I want friends who posses similar interests and values as me, not just people to club and go shopping with. Do your friends hold themselves accountable, or place blame on the Big Bad World for why their life isn’t going as planned? That is probably my #1 Pet Peeve when it comes to friends. No matter where you are in life, good, bad or in-between, you are there because of YOU and YOU ALONE. This is a concept that can take awhile to sink into a lot of people’s minds. I’ve had this talk with one prior friend who constantly complained about where she is in life. As a fully grown woman, you eventually have to stop blaming your parents and that one teacher in 6th grade who told you that you would never amount to anything. The cycle continued with her:

Express desire to change —> Make more senseless decisions —> Complain about how her life sucks—> Repeat

I eventually had to distance myself. I didn’t want to because she is a good person, but I couldn’t use history as an excuse to keep someone in my life who was only using me as a sounding board and life coach. I realized the friendship was more one-sided than I wanted to admit. The majority of our conversations consisted of me listening to her recount stories of her acting a fool, followed by pep talks a few days later when she realized she was just doing the same things over again but with different people and places. There wasn’t much substance to our interactions, and we rarely spoke about what was going on in my life. Don’t become the Iyanla Vanzant in your friendships. If you want someone to help you fix your life, seek therapy. It’s not fair and friendships should be based on reciprocity, mutual support and integrity. The Bible mentions cutting off branches that bear no fruit, and that same logic applies to friendships. You’ve gotta go if you’re here serving no purpose.

Being Grateful For The Little Things

No matter how good or bad your life is, always be thankful. You would be surprised at how expressing gratitude for the little things in your life can make you happy. We tend to focus on where we wish we were or the things we wish we had and take for granted what we currently do have. I’ve read so many snippets of things that say no matter what you’re doing, take just a moment to name what you are grateful for. I did this and reminded myself that I may not own a home, have a fancy car or a loaded bank account, but I do have a strong support system, a place to call home, a comfortable bed to sleep in, even toothpaste to brush my teeth. Remembering that there are people out there who would love to drive what you call a hoopty is humbling. I complain about waking up early for work when I should be happy I am awake to see another day with a great job to go to. I noticed when I started listing what I am grateful for, one thing started branching out to another. After I said I was happy to have an apartment, it snowballed into having a great roommate in my little sister, to having electricity and running water, to a comfortable couch and a refrigerator full of food. I could have gone on and on. By the end of this exercise, I realized how unappreciative and entitled I act.

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It may sound cliche to mention how there are people starving in the world and cold every night, but it really does put things in perspective. Having a bad day? Refuse to allow yourself to wallow in it. Negative thoughts beget more negative thoughts, and before you know it, you’re feeling worse. Choose differently next time. It isn’t second nature, but with effort you can train your brain to see the good in even the worst days or situations. Your life may not be where you want it to be, you may have failed countless times or are just generally unhappy, and being told to “be grateful” may sound insensitive and devoid of empathy. This isn’t an attempt to be dismissive, but instead a reminder that if you cannot appreciate the small but positive things in your life, chances are that you may be unable to appreciate the big ones as well. If you’re living in a negative state of mind, take just a few minutes each day to write down the things you are grateful for. I guarantee you will see a change.

Say ‘NO’ More Often

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No‘ may be the most important word in the English language. It is a word of power. The ability to choose what is right for us gives us autonomy, yet people everyday compromise their own wants and needs to appease others. As social creatures, we don’t want to risk breaking bonds by being displeasing and denying people what they ask of us. We all have numerous stories of times we would have rather eaten glass than attended that work function or get together, but trudged along anyway. Or better yet, we say ‘Yes’ in the moment, knowing fully well we want to say absolutely not, then flake later. Why do we make life harder for ourselves? One of my goals for 2019 is to cut out this toxic behavior. I deserve better. When it comes to work, friends, and acquaintances, if my spirit isn’t feeling it, I will be declining. All this boils down to is creating boundaries for yourself. Sure, I can make a few allowances for family and whomever else I feel deserves it, but I am no longer being a slave to my fear of letting people down. The world won’t stop spinning because you said no to that baby shower invitation. You don’t have to be rude or even give a reason, it’s none of their business why you said you can’t make it. People may get pushy, but you have to stand your ground. I used to be that person who was afraid of hurting people’s feelings, so I would usually cave in to their pleads. Who ended up being the one mentally suffering? Me. Life is stressful enough due to the things outside our control, so why add to your already overflowing plate? Take your power back. Choosing what is right for you is arguably the most important form of self care. You can’t neglect your happiness to please others. Just find the fine line between being a selfish jerk and doing what is right for you in the moment. By being honest about what you will and will not do or tolerate, you teach people what they can expect from you. If you are unsure how you want to proceed when first asked, tell the individual you need time to consider and will get back to them. It is equally important to follow up when saying no as it is when saying yes. Now you’ve acted with integrity and made the choice that is right for you. The first time I was honest and direct about saying no, I realized it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and I felt absolutely zero guilt. I was invited to a birthday gathering for a co-worker. It was one of those situations where you feel like you’re low key expected to be there, but it wasn’t a requirement. I personally hate these types of situations, but in the past I would grin and bear it or fake some type of emergency the day of, my anxiety building as the event got closer and closer. That’s just silly. It’s my life, and I can spend my time any way I choose to. No more flaking and no more faking. Take care of yourself. If you don’t want to attend, participate, allow yourself to be overworked, etc., say No! Your mind and body will thank you for it later.

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Get Up And Go

Travel has always been something I aspired to make a big part of my life. There is so much to see in the world, so much beauty and so much to learn. When you go with others, it can also be a bonding experience, and the memories that come of it are priceless. Lately, however, I have had the desire to hit the road on my own. A few weeks ago, I ventured off alone for the first time. I took a weekend getaway to Vancouver, B.C., and I really enjoyed myself. Traveling solo is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I felt like it was something I needed to do for my own enrichment. I didn’t go off too far for my first time, but Vancouver was far enough away to allow me to have that out of town feeling I was seeking, and it did the trick. I know people who have gone as far away as Israel to South Africa completely solo, but I’m not quite there yet. I talked about doing it for months, but never made the commitment to going. I kept putting it off and I wasn’t sure why. Fear, perhaps? Anyway, I was sitting at my desk one day and I went online and just booked a hotel. At that point, I felt obligated to go, and I planned the rest of it from there. My family was apprehensive. We are extremely close, so one of us taking the initiative to go away without one one or all of us was foreign. Safety was their main concern, which is completely understandable. A female traveling alone is vulnerable, after all. I’ve always had a fear of being sex trafficked, especially after seeing Taken. That movie had me shook for weeks. I am close with my dad, but he doesn’t have a special set of skills to come save me from sex slavery. I am, however, not fool enough to tell strangers where I am staying and that there is no one there but me, so I relied on my own common sense and looked up a few safety tips prior to leaving, just in case there was anything I didn’t think of. I pre-planned most of my activities so I wouldn’t be looking like the typical lost tourist, and I chose a hotel that was in the center of everything I wanted to do. Mama didn’t raise no fool, so I made sure to look out for myself, took note of my surroundings, and kept in frequent contact with my family back home. I didn’t want to give my mom a coronary by not keeping in touch. She would have had my face on a milk carton after five hours of no communication.

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Have you ever wanted to go somewhere but didn’t have anyone to go with? That has been my situation for quite some time. Family members have their own time constraints, friends don’t always have the money or vacation time, and a lot of us don’t have significant others to take baecations with. Who does that leave you with? Yourself! Be your own best friend. As much as we would prefer to have someone come along with us, it won’t always be possible. Are you going to let life pass you by, waiting on someone to comfort you with their presence? I realized it’s either go on my own, or continue to get older while I wait for people to have the time &/or money. When I first arrived in Vancouver, I felt a twinge of loneliness. I always have people around me, so the solitude felt very new, but I welcomed it. When your family is as tight knit as mine, alone time is not something you experience very often. I reminded myself that yes, I was alone, but there was no need to feel lonely. Everyone needs time to themselves to decompress, relax and be one with their own thoughts. Of course I want to take trips in the future with family and friends, but I will also make it a priority to visit new places on my own as well.

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When it’s just you, you are at the liberty to spend your time how you please. Want to stay in bed and watch TV for hours? You can do that without your companions whining that they are ready to get up and going. Is there a museum or show you want to take in, but everyone else wants to go to the club? You can go without having to compromise your wants for the majority of the group. The autonomy is priceless, and you don’t have to feel rushed. Your time is yours to spend how you please, and that is an amazing feeling. When people want to go, go go, constantly, it tires me out. Traveling is exhausting enough, and I like to relax at least a little bit while I have time away from work and other responsibilities. My second day in Vancouver, I took my time getting up. I stayed in bed for a little bit and watched TV, got up and showered, leisurely did my hair and makeup and got dressed. No one was huffing and puffing for me to hurry up and when I was ready to leave, I got brunch, took my time, then headed out for my activities. After about five hours of shopping, eating and exploring, I went back to my hotel. It was only about 7PM, but I didn’t feel it was necessary to stay out ALL day. My goal wasn’t to take the city by storm, but more so to test myself. I wanted to see how I felt and how I fared out on my own.

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So what did I learn about myself during this short, solo excursion? Quite a few things, actually. I realized that fear will stop you from doing so much. A couple of days before I was set to leave, I texted my mom telling her I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to go anymore. She didn’t allow it. She reminded me that fear has no place in our lives, and if we allowed it to stop us, we would never accomplish anything, With that encouragement, I kept my plans and I am so glad I did. I know I would have been disappointed in myself if I had chickened out, and that is a feeling I try to avoid at all costs. The 2nd most important thing I learned is that it is imperative we push ourselves out of our comfort zones. I almost allowed myself to stay stuck inside my hotel because I was intimidated by going out into the city alone. I don’t know why I felt this way, I just did. Maybe the unfamiliar territory gave me anxiety. Maybe I was afraid  I would get lost. Ultimately, I just told myself “girl, if you don’t get up…” and I got up. I went out. I enjoyed myself. I met and talked to people from different countries, like Morocco and South Korea who were also travelers. I am not sure where my next destination will be. I’ve considered San Francisco or perhaps Chicago. I do know that it will either be in the Spring or Summer, because it was COLD in Vancouver this time of year. I can’t wait to see what other adventures life has in store for me. Time to start planning!

Two 1st Date Questions Every Woman Must Ask

I don’t know if you watch or have read Harry Potter, but when Professor Slughorn exclaimed to Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince,These are mad times we live in, mad!,” I felt that. Every time I open my Twitter timeline, go on Facebook, or turn to the news, there is a new tragedy: a mass shooting, rape allegations, the killing of an unarmed Black person and/or Trump having us on the brink of nuclear war. Perilous times have been plaguing us for awhile now, and everyone has their unique set of views and opinions. Several people I knew from my high school and college days have been deleted or blocked because as platforms such as Black Lives Matter emerged, our racist counterparts also emerged with their true racist colors shining valiantly. I wasn’t too shocked to see that many of the White people I went to school with were so callous in the unnecessary killings of unarmed Black people, thus failing to shock me when they started showing their support for Trump as a presidential candidate. They say politics is a topic you should shy away from if you are not looking for an argument, but I say f*ck that. I need to hear your views. I need to hear that you are not an All Lives Mattering, Victim Blaming, Homophobic ignorant creep. When you’re on a first date or are just getting to know someone, you run through the same old questions to try and uncover who you are really dealing with: “What’s your favorite color?” “Where do you see yourself in three years?” “What would you do differently in your last relationship if you could go back?” Those questions are all fine and dandy, but in this economy and political climate, it’s time we ask some questions that will rock the boat. It will save you from getting roped up with an Uncle Tom or a crazy misogynist. If you’re not very Pro-Black or too into women’s rights, perhaps any old Joe won’t bother you. I personally would rather die alone with 14 cats than force myself to be with someone who isn’t down for the cause, but hey, that’s just me. These thoughts made me realize there are two imperative questions a woman must ask a potential suitor before allowing him access to her life.

Question One: “How Do You Feel About The Murders of Unarmed Black People By Police?”

Do All Black Lives Matter to you? They definitely matter to me. When asked, if your response even starts off with “Well, I really think All Liv…” I am getting my purse and walking out the door, word to Viola Davis. The date is cancelled and you can delete my number, beloved. Thanks for the appetizers. I really do not have the time or the energy to explain to another Black person why he should be concerned about the perpetual issue we have in this country when it comes to the lives of our own people. When a White person says they do not think we have a problem with racism in America and acts totally oblivious, it’s irritating but more understandable. Until someone opens your eyes, it is simple to walk through life completely unaware because the issues that affect others do not touch you. My mind is boggled at a Black man who thinks that because we don’t have to drink from the Colored water fountain anymore that everything is all hunky-dory. Sure, segregation is over, but Black people are STILL getting the police called on them for simply existing. All of the Permit Patty’s out here wildin’ with the 911 calls are not a coincidence. It’s racism in real time. You being able to lay up with Becky With The Good Hair and not wake up to a burning cross in your yard literally means nothing, and interracial relationships no longer being illegal did not solve 400 years of oppression. That being said, I need to know that you are not in a deep coma, unconscious to the plight of our people. 

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I am not interested in hearing that you are entitled to your opinion, because your opinion is wrong. The facts present themselves everyday on the news, and we all know Google is free. Books are not that expensive. Your parents and grandparents obviously have stories, and they don’t matter any less just because decades have elapsed. Research aside, I don’t know one Black person who doesn’t have at least one story about an experience they’ve had with a racist person or establishment. If you say you have not, you’re either lying or more lost than I thought. I am only in my 20’s but I have quite a few experiences I can share during story time when it comes to racism and microaggression, and I CANNOT STAND another Black person telling me Susie Salesgirl isn’t following me around the store because I’m Black. I can accept different views on everyday things, like music (although I can’t trust you if you don’t like Drake and Beyonce), Lebron vs. Jordan, sugar vs. salt in grits, etc. People often conflate what is fact with their personal opinions/preferences. Believing that Lebron is better than Jordan is not harmful to anyone, but turning your back on the woes of your own people definitely is. No one is saying you have to go ghost on your White friends; obviously not every White person is a stone cold racist but it’s still essential that we are cognizant of the disadvantages we face. A man willfully being Ray Charles to the Black struggle is no man for me. If I wanted to take on the job of arguing race relations with someone, I would have opted to date any other race but my own. I may end up with a man named Tom, but he certainly won’t be an Uncle Tom.

Question 2: “What Do You Think About Bill Cosby Going To Prison?”

This Bill Cosby question will cue me in to your views regarding rape culture as a whole. If you say he was trying to buy NBC so they framed him, I will once again grab my purse and exit stage left. Do I think it’s odd that in several rape allegations, victims have waited years, even decades, to come forward? Yes and no. Yes, because if I’m violated, trust and believe I’m telling. I will make it my life’s mission to see you pay. However, I am not everyone, and so many women come forward time and time again and are not taken seriously. I suppose it is easy to say what you will do until it actually happens. Women who tell are blamed, slut shamed, failed, and silenced. It makes a woman wonder, why even bother? Even if charges are brought forth, the punishment is usually mild and unfitting for the crime. It matters not whether she reports her assailant right now or 10 years from now, it does not make her any less of a victim. The main rebuttal I see men use when it comes to rape allegations are “well, a lot of these women are liars. They make these false accusations and ruin lives.” Is there truth to that? Absolutely.  False accusations are deadly and many men have had their lives robbed of them because of these untruths. It also slows down the progress of real victims receiving justice. The only issue I find in that logic is this: if your mother, sister, daughter, etc., confided in you that they were sexually violated, how are you going to respond? Are you going to tell her, “hold up, sis, I need his side of the story. You could be lying.

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You may think this is macabre dinner conversation, but their answers will speak volumes in regards to their character. If you could fix your mouth to tell your female loved one that you need to corroborate her story before showering her with love and sympathy, stay far away from me because you are a sociopath. If you don’t want to have the rape and consent talk over calamari and white wine, I wouldn’t put it off for very long. Nothing sucks more than deciding you like someone and finding out later that they support Rape Culture. Bill Cosby’s case was not an Illuminati conspiracy to stop him from buying NBC, it was just an example of how we really never get away with our transgressions. Pretty much every woman knows a woman who has been sexually violated, and if you can’t stand on the side of the victim, I can’t stand with you. Men are audacious enough to say it’s a scary time to be a man in America. I guess if you are a predator, it is a scary time. For all the men who are wrongfully accused, there are probably 5x as many who are rightfully accused and are going to Happy Hour right now without a care in the world.

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Educate yourselves, fellas. Learn to look at life from the viewpoint of someone who is not in your shoes. If you are a Black man oblivious to the racism that occurs everyday in this country, pick up a newspaper and read all about it. Realize and accept that you were not blessed with immunity to oppression. Do not be deliberately obtuse. Put yourself in the shoes of a woman who has to say a silent prayer every time she has to walk past a hoard of men. You may ask, why don’t you take the time to school the guy on what’s going on, why just throw him in the discard pile? My answer is because my name is not Ms. Wikipedia, especially when it comes to my people and race. You are living it everyday; if your own life experiences can’t wake you up out of your denial, then I don’t know what you expect me to do. As for sexual assault, I can’t teach you empathy. You will have to have your own epiphany, and you won’t have me pulling my hair out trying to force a simple concept into your head. I have made it a point to find a man’s stance on these sensitive subjects as early as possible. There is no point in either of us wasting time when it comes to my non-negotiable viewpoints. Good looks or money can’t make up for ignorance, especially in the Information Age. You don’t have to be in the streets marching for freedom and equality, but at least have an awareness of what is going on in this country. As a Black woman living through my experiences of intersectionality, I can’t be with someone uncommitted to understanding my walk in life.

I Used To Be a “Pick Me”

Before I get started on my little Ted Talk, you may have read the title and asked, “what is a Pick Me?” Social media (Twitter, to be specific) has officially coined a term for the type of female who goes out of her way to broadcast her amazing qualities and achievements. If she is single, you will often see complaints about how men love hoes and ratchets and overlook good women like her. If she is in a relationship, she will give lectures on how to get and keep a man, and if you can do neither, it’s because you’re lacking something in regards to your looks, character, and/or bedroom skills. There is a male version of this as well, I like to call it the Nice Guys Finish Last Syndrome. You know those guys who are constantly complaining about how they would treat a woman like a queen but we only want jailbirds and cheaters? I can’t wait to expound on that topic. Anyway, I went to Urban Dictionary to read the colorful definition of this term I knew they were sure to give, and I was not disappointed:

Exhibit A
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This intrigued me because look at the differing definitions. This has been the foundation of the debate. Are the Pick Me’s just begging for attention and acceptance from our male counterparts by broadcasting how well they will treat a man, or do they genuinely find fulfillment in catering to a man’s every need? Does it go beyond begging for acceptance into a more complex issue?
Exhibit B
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In my past, I used to think that because I am college educated, articulate, childless and attractive that I was more desirable and deserving of a good man than a woman who did not possess those exact same qualities. I was not a “hoe”, but a good girl who had morals and values. With all of my goody-goody attributes and University of Washington degree, I was still single. If I wasn’t single, I may as well have been because the men I was entertaining were the exact opposite of everything I felt I was and they played more games than Lebron. Life quickly taught me that no one gives a d*mn about how good I look on paper. A man will cheat on Michelle Obama just as quickly as Cardi B. Now that I’m “woke,” I realize that my mentality was a classic case of internalized misogyny. We are socialized to believe that women are to be modest and that no good man wants a “hussy.”
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Are You a Good Partner or a Pick Me?

Most of us enjoy doing nice things for the ones we love. I am a gift giver. I absolutely love giving gifts. I have some great people in my life, and to show my appreciation, I tend to put a lot of thought into the things I do for them. I don’t expect anything in return except that they continue to put a smile on my face and bring me joy. I’m quite shocked I’m more of Quality Time/Words of Affirmation Love Language than Receiving/Giving Gifts. If you’re a Pick Me, your Love Language is an antiquated 1950’s version of Acts of Service. You’re still socialized to believe that in order to keep a man, you must be Martha Stewart with the sex appeal of Rihanna, but only in the house, because if you show your body off to outsiders, you’re a hoe. I read something once where some poor soul admitted to doing her boyfriend’s homework, made his lunch each day, washed all of his clothes, and you know what he did? He went out and cheated. The girl was so perplexed. Why would he cheat? After all, she did everything a good woman was supposed to do. He was well taken care of, so he should have been content, right? WRONG. giphySelf-imposed slavery is not the key to faithfulness. I see women brag about being Holly Homemaker all the time, then you see their Instagram 6 months later and all those pictures of bae have magically disappeared. I guess all those Thanksgiving sized plates she was making every night weren’t fulfilling enough to hold the relationship together. Why are you basing what you can bring to the table off of how well you can bake a cookie or fold a shirt? Most of these men can barely boil water, yet you feel pressured to have a PowerPoint presentation showcasing all of your top tier wifey material traits. I remember thinking that I needed to amp up my culinary skills because no man wants a woman who can’t cook. I’m decent in the kitchen, but if you’re looking for Paula Deen, you might want to keep searching. I eventually stopped caring because if a man is really into you, he’ll sit at the table and eat Hot Pockets by candlelight. It’s best to do things in a relationship because you enjoy them, not out of some sense of domestic obligation. You don’t want to put on airs in the beginning in regards to how you operate because you will burn out. The other shoe will drop and he will see you have been living a lie. Just bring your true self to the table. If he doesn’t like what you’re serving, he can go eat somewhere else. We all have strengths and unique qualities that we should be proud of, so take some time to find out what you like and what you are good at. Develop yourself. Pretending to be someone you’re not is a surefire way to failure, so stop the false advertising.

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One of the most underrated scenes in Bridesmaids is at Lilian’s engagement party when one of the other bridesmaids kept reminding Annie that she didn’t have a husband. This is so common. Getting a man to walk down the aisle is seen as an accomplishment for a woman, because oh joy, a man finally picked you out of all the others. Marriage is a beautiful thing, no doubt. Committing yourself to one person and embarking on a life journey together is lovely, but so many women act like they’ve won Miss Universe because of it. For men, settling down is often seen as a punishment. No more late nights with the boys, no more one night stands, no more juggling as many chicks as your hands could handle. How funny. Either way, I blame society. We’ve been force fed for centuries the idea that all decent girls get married before they hit middle age, and if you can’t keep a man, something is clearly wrong with you. Until you had a ring on your finger, you were supposed to keep your legs closed and be a “good” young lady, otherwise risk being called a street woman or a hussy. This was much more of an issue back in the day, but many of these sentiments are still prevalent. Let a married  woman or even a woman with a boyfriend have a disagreement with a single lady, and I would be willing to bet my last dollar that somewhere in the argument, “you don’t even have a man” will come up. Internalized misogyny everywhere! Too much of your identity is tied to your relationship status if you think you can make assumptions on another woman’s character simply based off if she has a significant other. It’s always “you don’t have a man,” “maybe if you did x, y, and z he would still be around,” or “that’s why you’re still single.” If you do this, please stop. People are here today, gone tomorrow in this life, so you never know when you’ll be buying a new home in Singleville. The perceived embarrassment that comes with being perpetually single is what drives so many women to settle for men they wouldn’t have looked twice at in the past. You had all these extravagant standards for what you wanted in a man, but you settled for 2/10 things on your list because being able to say you have a man is better than saying you don’t. After all, how can you taunt other women with “where your ring at, sis?” if you keep waiting on Mr. Right to fall into your lap? Mr. Right Now will just have to do. Don’t fall for that logic. If you’re single, embrace it. Not every woman is dying to have a man strapped to her hip, but most people do want companionship. Love will come, and the more time you spend exploring your own hobbies and growing into the woman you’re meant to be, the less likely you are to settle. As a person who has been single for awhile, I sometimes find myself thinking about when I will find that one person who will make me give up the single life, but it’s not because I feel the pressures of society weighing on my shoulders, and certainly not because I feel like I have to compete with other women. I just know what I’m looking for, and want to take my time to find it.

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As I matured into a more well-rounded young woman, I stopped seeing relationships as a prize and realized I am the prize here. I want my fellow ladies to realize that their worth is not tied to being picked by a man. Life is not The Bachelor, we are not here to audition for the honor of being crowned a girlfriend or a wife. I believe that marriage should not be a shallow goal, but a desire to find that person that makes you feel happy and cherished. I hate to see women weaponize their love life against other women. Who knows if sexism will ever cease to exist, but let’s not perpetuate it by judging the lifestyles of other women because they are more sexually liberated, dress a certain way, or don’t have the most luck at love. It’s just not a good look. Men have started wars over us, but here we are acting like they are the ones who belong on a pedestal. I often poke fun at Pick Me’s, but then I realized it was important for me to acknowledge that I used to be one as well. I didn’t pop out the womb with this mindset. Like many women, I believed that if I did well in life, was nice to people and wasn’t loose that I would be wifed up by 25 with a picket fence. Funny how life works out. Be who you want to be, not who you think a man wants you to be.